We can succeed against COVID-19 where the US government has failed

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Many people are not surprised by the Trump administration’s apparent mishandling of its coronavirus response; it’s a continuation of various reputed policy failures that characterize President Donald Trump’s term. With almost 70,000 dead in the United States and confirmed cases at 1.18 million, many face grave terror given this administration’s ostensible failure to take urgently needed actions. As the government evidently has not stepped up to its duty, we must take up the task instead.

Like most Americans, I’m affected. A senior at UC Berkeley, I was supposed to move to Europe for a third of the year — a study abroad program that had cost me thousands of dollars, and one that I prepared extensively for. But within 10 days of my start date, my program was canceled. Now, I’ll attend graduation on a medium best meant for Netflix-binge parties: the internet.

Being home in Los Angeles has, however, allowed me to take inspiration from and compare the reactions of California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Trump. Newsom has quickly reacted to the coronavirus, making California the first state to enact stay-at-home orders. In comparison, Trump tweeted “LIBERATE” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, all states that have experienced protestors criticizing their states’ stay-at-home orders. Newsom immediately acknowledged the severity and intensity of the illness. Trump was criticized for his lagged response to the pandemic, later calling this reaction a “new hoax.” Time and time again, these two politicians have demonstrated their respective political styles — effective and evidently disastrous (respectively).

Although we may be in California, not all of us are so lucky. Florida’s governor allowed public access to beaches again in early April. Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed an executive order declaring most businesses and religious facilities in the state as “essential.” Many other states have mirrored such actions in the name of “freedom.” Lack of federal intervention and codification allows for states’ rights to flourish, yet such laissez-faire attitudes may result in fatal consequences. These actions ensure freedom for a select few, thereby ensuring an ultimate lack of freedom for others.

But the federal government’s apparent failures do not necessitate failure on our end. It is clear that the government’s halting response has negatively affected the livelihoods of many, and it may seem that all is hopeless — that there’s not much to be done. But on the contrary, this is our call to action.

We’re home now. We’re stuck with parents who might think they’re invincible, going to the grocery store five times a week despite our pleas to limit such trips. We are in constant Zoom calls, whether it be for class, a club or general companionship. Although it may be miserable and monotonous, there’s an easy way to make an impact and lessen the dullness of it all. For once, virtual action matters and is opportune — gone should be the days of ineffective “1 like = 1 prayer” posts. Now is the time of meaningful remote action. Organizing hubs such as Swing Left make it accessible to write letters and partake in remote, grassroots activities such as phone banking and aiding Democratic candidates in swing districts and states.

Writing letters may seem like an action better suited for an Elizabethan love story, but writing letters to citizens in swing districts can be an extremely effective way to get the word out about Democratic candidates. These voters wield momentous influence. All votes may be theoretically equal, but in a swing district, a single vote can be decisive. Swing states such as Florida are monumental for determining the outcome in November. Consequently, writing letters to voters in such states is an effective way to create change. Shifting potential voters’ perspectives and enlightening them about candidates with progressive values allow for the opportunity to promote meaningful change from home.

It’s crucial to bolster Democratic candidates now more than ever, as we witness in real time the seemingly egregious results of Trumpian politicians. Although the detrimental impacts of COVID-19 may have been exacerbated by Trump’s delayed response, we can ensure that it won’t happen again by electing progressive candidates who will transform our government.

The coronavirus doesn’t have to be defined by a partisan lens, yet it has shifted into a partisan battle, marked by Republican-led marginalization of COVID-19’s associated risks and shifting of blame. Notably, some Republican leaders are, however, supporting progressive action, such as Mitt Romney, who proposed the Patriot Pay act, advocating for a $12 per hour salary increase for essential workers laboring during the crisis. Unfortunately, such proposals are few and far between.

We have seen what happens when Trump and his league of sycophantic GOP leaders are in charge. Now is the time for progressive, Democratic candidates, and we need to help ensure Democrats take control. Early action is the key to winning in November and sparking change; we have no time to waste — we must ensure this devastating moment in history is never repeated.

Melody Niv is a former Daily Californian columnist and a UC Berkeley senior studying political science and history.